Since making his first start on May 29, Mike Fiers has consistently baffled hitters with little more than spotless command and good off-speed stuff, despite the difficulty of being consistently successful in the majors with such an assortment. However, it took an eight-inning near-no-hitter of the Reds eighty innings later for his performance to really get noticed by a national audience. Then, in his next start (last night at the Rockies) he was hit with a hard dose of regression: Eight runs in two innings. Twitter, per usual, was somewhat panicky – is this the start in which the rest of the league finally catches up on Fiers?
We really can’t be sure at this point, but the probable answer is “no”. For one, Fiers’ most recent start took place at Coors Field, which is far from the easiest environment to pitch in. The effect the surrounding thin air has on the flight of fly balls is well-known, but it also tends to suppress the “snap” on breaking balls, which certainly appeared to be the case last night. Fiers’ curve is typically among his hardest pitches to hit – batters have whiffed at it 15.24% of the time this year, a rate second only to his changeup – but look what happened last night:
– 3rd inning: Wilin Rosario singles to center field on a curveball.
– 3rd inning: Mike Fiers is removed from the game.
Fiers simply couldn’t keep the pitch down tonight, and it was one of the factors that led to his downfall, though not the only one. It’s not the first time a pitcher (especially a rookie) has gotten lit up with the aid of Coors Field – remember the gauntlet Yovani Gallardo endured there his first season in the majors? Especially when you consider the fact that Fiers didn’t allow a single walk or homer, this start can probably be written off. Well, unless, you ascribe his recent trouble to the absence of his trademark beard, and even that can probably be grown back by his next turn.